U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

December 2011 Archives

Maryland Wage Law Isn't Fundamental Public Policy

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that an employee was not entitled to recover the value of unvested stock shares under Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (MWPCL) because New Jersey law applied to her employment contract in a conflict of laws scenario.

Hillary Kunda sued her former employer, C.R. Bard, Inc. (Bard), alleging that Bard violated Maryland law when it failed to pay her for unvested shares earned through the company's long-term profit sharing plan after she left the company. Kunda claimed that, despite a New Jersey choice-of-law provision in the plan agreement, Maryland law applied to the contract because the MWPCL constitutes a fundamental public policy in Maryland.

OxyContin Pusher Wins Resentencing on Lack of Specificity

The law is all about specificity. Sometimes, the legal profession's undying devotion to specifics means that an accused person can escape criminal prosecution. Other times, as in today's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case, the specifics simply delay the inevitable.

This week, the Fourth Circuit ordered resentencing in a drug conviction in U.S. v. Bell because the district court failed to properly explain its methodology for calculating a drug quantity and make findings sufficient to permit appellate review of the sentence for procedural reasonableness.

Good Faith Exception Not Limited to Four Corners of Affidavit

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that the U.S. v. Leon good faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits a court to look beyond the facts stated in a search warrant affidavit and consider uncontroverted facts the police inadvertently failed to disclose to the magistrate.

Montgomery County police began investigating 18-year-old Collin McKenzie-Gude for firearms and explosives violations after his friend’s aunt informed police that McKenzie-Gude had an assault rifle and dangerous chemicals, and constantly discussed explosives. Police eventually obtained a search warrant for McKenzie-Gude’s home, the “Rockhurst Road residence,” where they found weapons, gun parts, bullet-proof vests, ammunition, and materials that could be used to make explosives.

Pension Plan Board Avoids Liability for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Today we're discussing a recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals breach of fiduciary duty appeal that's a valuable lesson in contradictory clichés.

On the plaintiff's side, we have Plasterers' Local Union Number 96 (Plasterers), a trade union that subscribes to the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" school of thought.

On the defendant's side, we have former trustees of the Plasterers' pension plan, who believe that one is "better safe than sorry."

Circuit Says Gun Warrants Physical Restraint Sentence Enhancement

Pop quiz: Which of the following qualifies as a physical restraint during a bank robbery?

(A) Rope (B) Duct tape (C) Gun (D) All of the above.

According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the answer is D.

Court Affirms Phillip Offill Conviction in Pump-and-Dump Schemes

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney's stock fraud conviction on Tuesday, rejecting arguments that evidence was improperly admitted during the trial.

The attorney, Phillip Offill, Jr., is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stellar Record Doesn't Mitigate Attorney Misconduct

If you think that a court will be hesitant to issue sanctions against court-appointed attorneys with stellar records, think again.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals admonished court-appointed attorney Thomas Liotti on Friday for five different charges of attorney misconduct, most relating to factual misrepresentations. Liotti conceded the misrepresentations, but argued that he should not be publicly disciplined because they were unintentional. The court was not persuaded.

Fourth Cir. Appoints Panel to Hear Maryland Redistricting Lawsuit

Here's a little political news to cap off your week, Fourth Circuit fans.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Traxler Jr. announced the three-judge panel that will consider the lawsuit contesting Maryland's Congressional redistricting map this week. The judges are Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer, and U.S. District Judges Alexander Williams and Roger Titus, both of the District Court for the District of Maryland.

Fourth Cir. Affirms Triple-Murderer Dustin John Higgs Conviction

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed convicted-murderer Dustin John Higgs's conviction and federal death sentence last week, finding that Higgs's rights to due process of law were not violated by the withholding of Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (CBLA) evidence at his trial.

Higgs was convicted of killing three women in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge near Washington, D.C. after an unsuccessful set-up date. The government presented overwhelming evidence of Higgs's guilt, as well as of his predominant role in the murders, at trial.